“It looks like we will go beyond the EUR 555 mln first mentioned…it will be greater than that number,” said Craig Ballantyne, Property President of City of Dreams Mediterranean and Cyprus Casinos.
He did not want to speculate on how far the final bill of the ambitious project will exceed the preliminary estimated cost.
Macau’s Melco International and its Cypriot partner CNS group are behind the first casino resort in Cyprus named City of Dream Mediterranean.
Currently, Melco is reviewing the four tenders to build the ICR and the selection process should be completed by January with construction expected to begin in February.
All required licenses – only the building permit is outstanding – to go ahead with the project should also be secured over the next three weeks.
“We hope to start very early in the New Year, January or February, and it’s a 29-month build, so we should be on track for 2021,” said Ballantyne.
The complex will have 500 five-star hotel rooms, exclusive suites and villas with a gaming area of 7,500 m² and other event/conference facilities spanning more than 9,600 m².
There is a 1,500 m² multipurpose function space and a 3,000 m² Expo Centre and retail area covering 1,200 m² replicating the streetscape of old Nicosia city centre.
The casino area will accommodate 140 gaming tables, 1,200 gaming machines, 11 restaurants and bars that employ 2,400 staff but generate around 6,500 direct, indirect and related full-time jobs.
The casino complex, a landmark for Cyprus and the wider region, is expected to attract an additional 300,000 tourists per year and should put Cyprus on the map as an international conference destination.
“We have the space to be a regional conference tourism player with companies from Dubai, Greece and the UK already showing interest, we also plan to tap into wedding tourism as well,” said Ballantyne.
He also wants to bring “Las Vegas-style entertainment” to the resort as an added attraction.
Melco says City of Dreams Mediterranean will create 4,000 local job opportunities during the construction phase and approximately 2,400 permanent jobs once it is fully operational.
After the second year of operation, the Integrated Resort is expected to contribute approximately €700 million per year to the Cyprus economy, accounting for around 4% of annual GDP.
Some 300,000 people have visited the first casino to operate in the Cyprus Republic since it opened on 28 June in Limassol.
Located at 271 Franklin Roosevelt Avenue in Zakaki, C2 Limassol spreads across 4,600 m² inclusive of a 1,300 m² gaming area.
It features 33 Table Games and 258 Slot Machines, VIP gaming area, the Columbia Bistro restaurant and two bars.
The casino operates on a 24/7 basis.
Satellite casinos are not intended to be fully fledged casinos, they mainly serve as legal gaming venues to deter illegal gambling and people crossing over to the north to gamble.
“We believe in responsible gaming, the last thing we want is addicts or threatening behaviour towards staff… we monitor how much people spend, we have to make everything transparent and above board,” said Ballantyne.
Which is why there are 400 surveillance cameras at Limassol casino and 100 in Nicosia.
“We regulate ourselves and we have done a lot to ensure responsible gaming with 70 self-exclusions, which is not a big number.”
When the Limassol casino shuts down in three years’ time, all personnel will automatically be transferred to the Integrated Casino Resort.
Since casinos started operating in the Republic of Cyprus the biggest winner has received €500,000 at roulette playing at the casino in Limassol while the unluckiest loser has lost €130,000.
“Both times were on the roulette in Limassol which is the biggest source of revenue from a casino table game in Europe and the most popular,” said Ballantyne.
But the government is also in the money with the Melco-backed Cyprus Casinos operation bringing in €6 mln in mainly tax revenues since the Limassol casino opened.
Cyprus Casinos Nicosia (C2 Nicosia) opened its doors to the public last week, it is the Republic’s first satellite casino following the successful launch of the pop-up C2 Limassol.
The Limassol casino is welcoming 1700 visitors per day and around 600 per day are expected for the smaller Nicosia satellite.
The overwhelming majority of visitors are Cypriot, although the big-time roulette winner was a foreign national.
Ballantyne said he was pleased to see the new Nicosia addition to the C2 portfolio.
He noted that “100 people have been employed at the location in Nicosia, bringing the total number of Melco staff in Cyprus to over 700 individuals, the vast majority being Cypriot citizens.”
C2 Nicosia is located opposite the Hilton Park hotel with a total area of 970 m2 and features five live tables and 50 slot machines.
It boasts a similar interior design and identity as C2 Limassol.
The Nicosia casino is open Monday to Friday from 3 pm until 6 am (it is not 24/7 due to it being next to a private university) and 24-hours on weekends, public holidays and holiday seasons.
As all Cyprus Casinos, visitors must be 21 years of age and above to enter, there is no entry fee or membership requirement.
A second satellite casino opened in Larnaca (C2 Larnaca) on Friday at Larnaca International Airport – there are two locations – one in the departure’s terminal and the other at arrivals. They will operate 24/7 and only have slot machines (42).
There is a delay in the opening date of the Paphos satellite as a new venue is being sought due to parking problems with the original location.
However, Ayia Napa should get to see its satellite casino – on Archbishop Makarios Avenue – near the Faros hotel – up and running around April 2019.